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Andrei Clinciu Article AUthor
Andrei Clinciu
  • 2023-02-06T14:00:00Z
  • 3 min to read

How to avoid getting stuck in software vendor lock ins

You're locked.
You probably want to avoid investing tons of money into a system which locks you in? Right? Wrong? Maybe?
Whenever I build any software project I ensure that I avoid vendor lock-ins whenever possible.
If that's not always possible, I ensure alternatives are available.
Nowadays we have so many vendor lock-in's that people rarely care. Until it's too late!

In this article I discuss quite simply

  • What IS a vendor lock in?
  • Why almost everything online IS a vendor lock-in
  • Alternatives and HOW to AVOID vendor Lockins


My main focus is on the Software world vendor lock-ins because software is ephemeral. It's not like a house which you can remodel easily. In software one wrong choice and you need to remake the whole project from scratch. This happens more often than you'd expect.

What is a vendor lock-in anyway?

Vendor lock-in refers to a situation where the cost of switching to a different vendor is so high that the customer is essentially stuck with the original vendor.

Imagine you've chosen a platform, spent a few hundreds of hours building the website and then they go bankrupt. Or even worse they are acquired by another large corporation and they shut down the project or migrate to another system.

Now imagine this, you nave NO Way to retrieve the data in a feasible format and you have NO way to import it in another application.

It can be a website, it can be an app, your marketing newsletter system, your mail system or anything which is central or important in your company affairs.

Here's a list of corporations which bought over other companies and discontinued their services:

The main problem with a vendor lock-in IS that you waste TIME, ENERGY AND money on something which.. locks your potential in.

When do vendor lock-ins occur?

Most vendor lockins occur when you can't export and import data from the system by using open formats.

Vendor Lockins also occur when the systems you use be it tools, programming languages, frameworks or libraries are closed source or controlled by a huge corporation which is not always "open" or use "open systems".

There is also the mental lock-in when a company decides to use a technology because it's all hype. This is the worst of all because it creates bloatware.

Why is almost everything online a vendor lock-in?

Look around at any company system you use, can you sense a vendor lock-in ?

If you use a MAC and/OR a Windows machine you're most likely locked into a vendor without even noticing it! It's the operating system on one hand and the tools available on the other hand.

Almost all applications devised, be it apps on your phone, websites or software you can install on your PC can be a potential lock-in.

Enterprises love vendor lock-ins because they seek large enterprises to provide them with services.. which in turn makes it harder to switch away without incurring huge costs. The impression of freedom and options in cloud systems also lock you in.

If you're a small company or entrepreneur, thinking about THIS from the very beginning is extremely important. If you have doubts you can contact me and I can help you choose the right thing.

How do you avoid vendor lock-ins?

The first solution would be to use software or hardware which is open source or built on open standards.
NOTE: Open Source does not mean "free", it means freedom.

Choose systems and providers which give you the source code at the end. OR at least you could purchase it from them at an extra price. If that's not possible, try using open standards.

But open source is not enough be sure to avoid fatal flaws of wheel reinvention when choosing any system.

The best bet? Don't go with the hype. If everyone's building websites with angular, ask yourself, do you really need it? Aren't there better alternatives?

Ideas and comments

Andrei Clinciu
Andrei Clinciu

I'm a Full Stack Software Developer specializing in creating websites and applications which aid businesses to automate. Software which can help you simplify your life. Let's work together!

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